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Eryn Edgers Jackson

Published:

Feral at Heart

My journey began on a little sleepy island in the Puget Sound, Fox Island, Washington. At that time, it was considered in the middle of nowhere. Growing up during the era of ‘post cards and payphones’, there was no cable, or light and sound pollution. I was an only child but far from lonely and far from bored. I had my dogs and horses, the abundant native flora and fauna, many trees to climb and an entire island to freely explore. This was a paradise for a tomboy, and my natural classroom. I was a champion at keeping myself entertained.

Some of my earliest memories of making art and connecting to nature were on our beach and in the family gardens and orchards. I would make sand-castles under the very large trees that hung over the shore in front of our home. I would collect shells, bits of driftwood, feathers, and rocks to decorate my creations. I was naturally stimulated by the ever-changing tides. You never had the same visual experience twice. Nature’s Ephemera.

The family orchards were filled with a large variety of fruit trees. There was a special thrill for me as a child in climbing the crabapple trees and painting little works of art on their fruit faces with my paints, for family members to find later. I would be delighted to hear my grandfather say aloud, when he would find one of these mystery paintings, “Well, will you look at that! It looks like Jack Frost has been at it again! Leaving us with these clever art works!”

My childhood heroes were Pippi Longstocking, Max from Where the Wild Things Are, and Dr. Dolittle. I would pet the little fuzzy bumblebees that landed on the daisies. I would have conversations and picnics with birds. I was certain I could see natural faces in the bark of trees smiling at me like dryads. Mother Nature gave the best Rorschach tests.

I would end most of my days with sand-stained feet, smelling of salt, pitch on my arms from climbing the trees, and a tangle of messy long hair, complete with the occasional feathers I would find and stick behind my ears. I never had fingernails. I really did look like a feral child growing up! This was the inspiration for my business name.

Sound was always an interest to me. When you grow up in an environment that is naturally free from human noise, you become very aware of the sounds of the natural world that are all around you. Besides the beach sounds, there were always the animals, like stellar jay, sea lions and even wild peacocks. The peacocks had been brought in and became a feral flock long before I was born. They were on the other petite island across from our home in our bay.

Our beach home was located in Echo Bay. In that bay was another tiny island called Tangle Wood. It is privately owned now, but it was once a Native American burial island, shared by several tribes. Only 7 acres, it sat nestled in our bay and was less than a quarter mile off our shore. There, those peacocks were like sirens to me. I could easily float on my innertube or row the family dingy over to the island’s sandy shores, where these magical birds were, and hope to find a magnificent, shed feather and listen to their songs.

My family was friends with the island’s owner at the time. In the middle of Tangle Wood Island, there were the sky burials—canoes placed high in the trees for the departed ancestors and grave gods. We were to be respectful and leave them in peace. I was always amazed by these. This, most likely, is where my interest in the spirit journey began.

Most people find change in their washing machines and couch cushions….I find rocks & shells.

When I was 7 years old, I announced that I would be an artist or a veterinarian. Or both. In school, I quickly recognized could not get through higher math and science very well. However, I always did well in the arts. Despite what I now assume was undiagnosed dyscalculia, I graduated a year early. At this time, I was able to begin foreign travel via foreign exchange programs and extended learning courses abroad. 

I was able to see nearly all of Europe, living in Hyvinkaa, Finland; Pamplona, Spain; Australia; the Caribbean; and much of Canada. I also lived for most of a year in Ketchikan, Alaska. I found myself experiencing other cultures’ indigenous arts and sounds, and it made a huge impression on me. It was a natural evolution. I am very grateful to have had these opportunities my parents provided. 

My dreams of becoming a vet were very obviously not going to come to fruition with my nonmathematical mind, so art school it was. After living in the city to attend art college for a time, I realized I would never have an actual degree due to my difficulties in math. 

Again, I began to realize that a higher education was not for me. The city left me over stimulated, claustrophobic, and uninspired. So did the classrooms with four walls.

I left the city life for a sanctuary back in the country and decided it was back to the animals near my beloved island with beaches and trees. At 27 years old, I bought a farm and turned it into an equestrian center over the course of a year. It became my main business and was how I made my living for 20 years. I boarded horses, gave riding lessons, trained horses, held a horse show judge’s card and hosted events and clinics. This part of life also came with starting a family and getting settled. I kept my art around me always, but it had to remain on the back burner for 2 decades.

Although I loved every single minute and experience of the equestrian life and raising a family, when the nest was empty and my body was older, I started to think about having to retire from the hard physical labor that comes with the horses and farm life … but what would I do? It is not the easiest thing to find one-self at the age of the half century mark and needing to change one’s career, but I was up for the challenge. Naturally, my original love was calling me back like the siren sounds of those feral peacocks long ago.

As synchronicity would have it, just as I was posing the question of “what now” to the universe, I happened to wander into my answer when attending a random convention. There was a lovely indigenous woman playing a Shamanic drum that she had made. I took her card home with my newfound treasure, one of her petite drums. I got up the nerve to call her and ask if she would be willing to teach me her craft. She agreed, and it was love at first creation. I will be forever grateful for this woman passing her knowledge onto me.

At last, I found my art calling. I could work with natural, loved, and hand-collected ingredients and stay connected to nature through sound. After a private class, I was left to figure out several key parts of the process. This turned out to be a blessing. Most ingredients were pre-laid out to cut down on time. Very understandable, as building a drum is a many-days-long process.

After much trial and error, I taught myself how to build my own drum frames from scratch. I wanted to be able to make every instrument from tip to top. During this learning curve, I also naturally started to experiment with different handles for rattles, drums, and drumsticks. Why not incorporate found treasures or recycled, meaningful ingredients? I had so many collected natural antler sheds, driftwood branches, shells and so many rocks and agates … so, so many.

I started to play with natural dyes at this time as well. I taught myself, experimented, and learned so much over the next 4 years. I work with the 4 elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. The 5th element is Ether, or Spirit. That last element is up to the client to put into the piece of art once it is in their hands. When I create my art, I always have a general theme in mind by looking at the materials laid out before me, but ultimately, it is up to the client to put their own intentions into each piece.

Having an online Etsy shop has been a blessing for me. I am able to show and offer my drums and rattles around the world. Some call them Shaman instruments, some call them sound therapy tools, and some call them ritual art. I like to call my creations Sound Alchemy Tools. Alchemy equals magic to me, and that is what I feel when making them.

Nowadays, many times I still happily crawl into bed at night with forest feet, pitch on my hands that won’t quite scrub off, and sometimes the occasional feather that I forgot in my hair. I still don’t have fingernails. Full circle. Still Feral.

Every day I am grateful. The creative process is an ever-changing landscape and welcome journey in expressing oneself and hopefully inspiring and helping others.

The process of creating a rattle.

You will first need a piece of rawhide. Next, you’ll need a plastic bucket that is big enough to soak your hide flat. Make sure it is fully submerged. Soak the hide a minimum of 24 hours.

When the hide is ready, remove from the soaking bucket and lay the hide down on a flat clean surface.

You can now take your cup or small dish and trace the pattern two times with a pale-colored pencil. You will also need an opening for your rattle handle to fit.

Take the end of your handle of choice and mark the width on both pieces, leaving a little bit of a tab on both as to leave an opening. Cut out both sides of your rattle head and lay them on top of each other.

You will need a leather hole punch. Starting above where your handle will fit, punch holes all the way around the head.

Next, you will need to thread a large sewing needle with sinew, giving much extra length to tie and secure your handle after. Starting at one side of your handle opening, you will sew your sinew all the way around.

Once you are done with stitching the pieces together, you will be ready to fill your rattle head with sand. Then you can place your handle into the opening you have left, and secure your two excess lengths of sinew around the handle.

Place your finished rattle on a drying rack for several days. Once the rattle is dry, you will need to remove your handle and empty the sand.

You are now ready to add your special ingredients for rattle filler!

Once filled, take all-surface glue and dab a small amount on the entrance of your handle opening on both sides. Add the handle and wrap your excess sinew ends around your handle tightly. You will need to let this dry for a few hours, minimum.

And … you are now ready to make some magical music!

“Nature is a mirror. What you put out, you get back.”—unknown

Feral at Heart

My journey began on a little sleepy island in the Puget Sound, Fox Island, Washington. At that time, it was considered in the middle of nowhere. Growing up during the era of ‘post cards and payphones’, there was no cable, or light and sound pollution. I was an only child but far from lonely and far from bored. I had my dogs and horses, the abundant native flora and fauna, many trees to climb and an entire island to freely explore. This was a paradise for a tomboy, and my natural classroom. I was a champion at keeping myself entertained.

Some of my earliest memories of making art and connecting to nature were on our beach and in the family gardens and orchards. I would make sand-castles under the very large trees that hung over the shore in front of our home. I would collect shells, bits of driftwood, feathers, and rocks to decorate my creations. I was naturally stimulated by the ever-changing tides. You never had the same visual experience twice. Nature’s Ephemera.

The family orchards were filled with a large variety of fruit trees. There was a special thrill for me as a child in climbing the crabapple trees and painting little works of art on their fruit faces with my paints, for family members to find later. I would be delighted to hear my grandfather say aloud, when he would find one of these mystery paintings, “Well, will you look at that! It looks like Jack Frost has been at it again! Leaving us with these clever art works!”

My childhood heroes were Pippi Longstocking, Max from Where the Wild Things Are, and Dr. Dolittle. I would pet the little fuzzy bumblebees that landed on the daisies. I would have conversations and picnics with birds. I was certain I could see natural faces in the bark of trees smiling at me like dryads. Mother Nature gave the best Rorschach tests.

I would end most of my days with sand-stained feet, smelling of salt, pitch on my arms from climbing the trees, and a tangle of messy long hair, complete with the occasional feathers I would find and stick behind my ears. I never had fingernails. I really did look like a feral child growing up! This was the inspiration for my business name.

Sound was always an interest to me. When you grow up in an environment that is naturally free from human noise, you become very aware of the sounds of the natural world that are all around you. Besides the beach sounds, there were always the animals, like stellar jay, sea lions and even wild peacocks. The peacocks had been brought in and became a feral flock long before I was born. They were on the other petite island across from our home in our bay.

Our beach home was located in Echo Bay. In that bay was another tiny island called Tangle Wood. It is privately owned now, but it was once a Native American burial island, shared by several tribes. Only 7 acres, it sat nestled in our bay and was less than a quarter mile off our shore. There, those peacocks were like sirens to me. I could easily float on my innertube or row the family dingy over to the island’s sandy shores, where these magical birds were, and hope to find a magnificent, shed feather and listen to their songs.

My family was friends with the island’s owner at the time. In the middle of Tangle Wood Island, there were the sky burials—canoes placed high in the trees for the departed ancestors and grave gods. We were to be respectful and leave them in peace. I was always amazed by these. This, most likely, is where my interest in the spirit journey began.

Most people find change in their washing machines and couch cushions….I find rocks & shells.

When I was 7 years old, I announced that I would be an artist or a veterinarian. Or both. In school, I quickly recognized could not get through higher math and science very well. However, I always did well in the arts. Despite what I now assume was undiagnosed dyscalculia, I graduated a year early. At this time, I was able to begin foreign travel via foreign exchange programs and extended learning courses abroad. 

I was able to see nearly all of Europe, living in Hyvinkaa, Finland; Pamplona, Spain; Australia; the Caribbean; and much of Canada. I also lived for most of a year in Ketchikan, Alaska. I found myself experiencing other cultures’ indigenous arts and sounds, and it made a huge impression on me. It was a natural evolution. I am very grateful to have had these opportunities my parents provided. 

My dreams of becoming a vet were very obviously not going to come to fruition with my nonmathematical mind, so art school it was. After living in the city to attend art college for a time, I realized I would never have an actual degree due to my difficulties in math. 

Again, I began to realize that a higher education was not for me. The city left me over stimulated, claustrophobic, and uninspired. So did the classrooms with four walls.

I left the city life for a sanctuary back in the country and decided it was back to the animals near my beloved island with beaches and trees. At 27 years old, I bought a farm and turned it into an equestrian center over the course of a year. It became my main business and was how I made my living for 20 years. I boarded horses, gave riding lessons, trained horses, held a horse show judge’s card and hosted events and clinics. This part of life also came with starting a family and getting settled. I kept my art around me always, but it had to remain on the back burner for 2 decades.

Although I loved every single minute and experience of the equestrian life and raising a family, when the nest was empty and my body was older, I started to think about having to retire from the hard physical labor that comes with the horses and farm life … but what would I do? It is not the easiest thing to find one-self at the age of the half century mark and needing to change one’s career, but I was up for the challenge. Naturally, my original love was calling me back like the siren sounds of those feral peacocks long ago.

As synchronicity would have it, just as I was posing the question of “what now” to the universe, I happened to wander into my answer when attending a random convention. There was a lovely indigenous woman playing a Shamanic drum that she had made. I took her card home with my newfound treasure, one of her petite drums. I got up the nerve to call her and ask if she would be willing to teach me her craft. She agreed, and it was love at first creation. I will be forever grateful for this woman passing her knowledge onto me.

At last, I found my art calling. I could work with natural, loved, and hand-collected ingredients and stay connected to nature through sound. After a private class, I was left to figure out several key parts of the process. This turned out to be a blessing. Most ingredients were pre-laid out to cut down on time. Very understandable, as building a drum is a many-days-long process.

After much trial and error, I taught myself how to build my own drum frames from scratch. I wanted to be able to make every instrument from tip to top. During this learning curve, I also naturally started to experiment with different handles for rattles, drums, and drumsticks. Why not incorporate found treasures or recycled, meaningful ingredients? I had so many collected natural antler sheds, driftwood branches, shells and so many rocks and agates … so, so many.

I started to play with natural dyes at this time as well. I taught myself, experimented, and learned so much over the next 4 years. I work with the 4 elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. The 5th element is Ether, or Spirit. That last element is up to the client to put into the piece of art once it is in their hands. When I create my art, I always have a general theme in mind by looking at the materials laid out before me, but ultimately, it is up to the client to put their own intentions into each piece.

Having an online Etsy shop has been a blessing for me. I am able to show and offer my drums and rattles around the world. Some call them Shaman instruments, some call them sound therapy tools, and some call them ritual art. I like to call my creations Sound Alchemy Tools. Alchemy equals magic to me, and that is what I feel when making them.

Nowadays, many times I still happily crawl into bed at night with forest feet, pitch on my hands that won’t quite scrub off, and sometimes the occasional feather that I forgot in my hair. I still don’t have fingernails. Full circle. Still Feral.

Every day I am grateful. The creative process is an ever-changing landscape and welcome journey in expressing oneself and hopefully inspiring and helping others.

The process of creating a rattle.

You will first need a piece of rawhide. Next, you’ll need a plastic bucket that is big enough to soak your hide flat. Make sure it is fully submerged. Soak the hide a minimum of 24 hours.

When the hide is ready, remove from the soaking bucket and lay the hide down on a flat clean surface.

You can now take your cup or small dish and trace the pattern two times with a pale-colored pencil. You will also need an opening for your rattle handle to fit.

Take the end of your handle of choice and mark the width on both pieces, leaving a little bit of a tab on both as to leave an opening. Cut out both sides of your rattle head and lay them on top of each other.

You will need a leather hole punch. Starting above where your handle will fit, punch holes all the way around the head.

Next, you will need to thread a large sewing needle with sinew, giving much extra length to tie and secure your handle after. Starting at one side of your handle opening, you will sew your sinew all the way around.

Once you are done with stitching the pieces together, you will be ready to fill your rattle head with sand. Then you can place your handle into the opening you have left, and secure your two excess lengths of sinew around the handle.

Place your finished rattle on a drying rack for several days. Once the rattle is dry, you will need to remove your handle and empty the sand.

You are now ready to add your special ingredients for rattle filler!

Once filled, take all-surface glue and dab a small amount on the entrance of your handle opening on both sides. Add the handle and wrap your excess sinew ends around your handle tightly. You will need to let this dry for a few hours, minimum.

And … you are now ready to make some magical music!

“Nature is a mirror. What you put out, you get back.”—unknown